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Toronto Blue Jays 2018: Scouting, Projected Lineup, Expert Insight

Marcus Stroman

Marcus Stroman

The Toronto Blue Jays enter the 2018 season straddling the line between legitimate postseason contender and also-ran. Certainly if things break right, their health improves dramatically and they get some bounce-back from some underperformers last year, they have the tools to compete for a Wild Card spot, at minimum. At the same time, things could very easily break wrong, their roster could once again be ravaged by injury and the individual struggles from a year ago could prove to be the start of a continued decline for an aging club, rather than an aberration. At the center of it all is Josh Donaldson, the MVP-caliber third baseman eligible for free agency in the fall, who is both the key to their hopes of contending and the prime asset who could jump-start a potential soft reset at the trade deadline should the Blue Jays once again stumble.

Opposing Scouts Size Up the BLUE JAYS  

“The front office really feels like they owe it to the fan base to still be competitive. And when you look at their rotation, you can see how they might have a shot. If Aaron Sanchez comes back, with Marcus Stroman at the top of the rotation, that gives them two righthanders who profile as extreme ground-ball guys, exactly what you’d want against the Yankees. Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ are trustworthy mid-rotation guys, and while Roberto Osuna blew 10 saves, I still love him back there. You’ve got to appreciate the toughness of a guy who faces his anxiety head-on in a public forum like he did. The key is the health of their older guys like Russell Martin and Troy Tulowitzki. In Justin Smoak and Kendrys Morales, they’ve managed to cover for most of the power they once had with Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista. With Josh Donaldson in the middle — in his final year before free agency — that lineup still scares me when it’s all together.”

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No Pain, No Gain

Some of last year’s pain helped the Blue Jays acquire players who could help them make 2018 gains. Outfielder Teoscar Hernandez, who impressed during a September stint, and lefthander Thomas Pannone, who finished the year at Double-A, were both acquired on July 31 during the club’s first trade deadline sell-off since 2009. Hernandez, picked up from Houston for Francisco Liriano, will arrive at spring camp with the chance to win a job. Pannone, who came over from Cleveland for Joe Smith, is expected to open the year at Triple-A Buffalo and serve as rotation depth.

Emerging Bat

 Marcus Stroman often hangs out with the team’s position players, and twice last year he showed that he had picked up a few things. During a 6–5, 11-inning win at St. Louis on April 27, he came on as a pinch-hitter in the 11th inning, doubled and scored the winning run. Then, on May 18, he hit an opposite-field homer off Julio Teheran in a 9–0 win at Atlanta.

Rare Air

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Chris Coghlan posted a tiny .566 OPS in 36 games before hitting the DL and being cut. But he scored the Blue Jays’ run of the year April 27 when he somersaulted over Yadier Molina at home plate in the seventh inning. “It’s like I saw a unicorn,” Marco Estrada marveled afterwards.

Slow Pokes

A lack of team speed has been problematic for the Blue Jays in recent seasons, but those issues really surfaced in 2017 as they hit into the second-most double plays in the majors at 153 and tied for the second-worst extra-base-taken percentage on singles and doubles at 35 percent, according to Baseball-Reference.com. Their 53 stolen bases were also next to last in the majors.

Sore Arms

A year after needing only seven starters to cover the regular season, the Blue Jays used twice as many during their injury-riddled 2017. Only Stroman and Marco Estrada broke the 30-start plateau, both taking the ball 33 times, while no one other than J.A. Happ at 25 made more than 18 starts. Nine of the 14 pitchers to make a start finished with an ERA above 5.00, led by Casey Lawrence at 8.78. 

Walk-off Grannies

In a season bereft of highlights, Steve Pearce delivered two particularly memorable moments over a span of four games in late July, when he became just the third player in big-league history to hit two walk-off grand slams in the same year. 

Projected Lineup

LINEUP
LF     Curtis Granderson (L)

3B     Josh Donaldson (R)
1B     Justin Smoak (S)
DH     Kendrys Morales (S)
SS     Troy Tulowitzki (R)

RF     Randal Grichuk (R)

2B     Yangervis Solarte (S)
C     Russell Martin (R)
CF     Kevin Pillar (R)
BENCH
OF     Teoscar Hernandez (R)
2B     Devon Travis (R)
UT     Steve Pearce (R)

C     Luke Maile (R)
ROTATION
RHP     Marcus Stroman
RHP     Aaron Sanchez
LHP     J.A. Happ
RHP     Marco Estrada
RHP     Joe Biagini
BULLPEN
RHP     Roberto Osuna 
RHP     Ryan Tepera
LHP     Tim Mayza
LHP     Aaron Loup
RHP     Danny Barnes
RHP     Carlos Ramirez
LHP     Matt Dermody